Stollen

Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …

A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes

B) I get married today

C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…

Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.

Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.

Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.

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Gibassier

Gibassier-wild-yeast

When I was a student at SFBI, if you had asked any of us for a short list of our favorite sweet breads, Gibassier would have been on it every time. To get an idea of our collective response to the mere mention of this regional brioche, delicately flavored with orange and and anise and enriched with olive oil, think Les Simpsons en Provence: “Mmmm…. Gibassier!”

There seems to be some disagreement about whether Gibassier and Pompe à ‘Huile — one of the thirteen Provençal Christmas desserts — are the same thing. I don’t know the answer, but why quibble? I’m pretty sure no one will complain if this bread winds upon your dessert table — at Christmas time or any other time, with or without twelve other sweets — or on your breakfast table or your coffee table.

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Bagel Miter Review and Giveaway

Cutting a bagel is dangerous business. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2008 there were 1,979 bagel-related emergency room visits. This makes bagels the fifth most dangerous food (behind chicken, potatoes, apples, and onions). If you’re partial to your fingers, I suggest a bagel-cutting aid.

I’ve used a guillotine-style bagel cutter for a long time, but sometimes it doesn’t give the cleanest cut. A serrated knife does a better job, but the risk of accidents is high, especially when your bagel is the right kind (that is, shiny-slippery-firm, not squishy-soft-pudgy). The good people at BigKitchen sent me this Ironwood Acacia Bagel Miter, and I was anxious to see if it would cut it.

Read on for my opinion, and a giveaway

Potato Streusel Coffee Cake

I’ve been a bad Bread Baking Babe before, but this month takes the (coffee) cake. I was actually (uncharacteristically) ahead of the game, baking my cakes a few days before our November 16 posting date, but I then managed to leave for vacation without my notes. So, now that I’m back, I’ve exceeded the deadline by almost two weeks and am prepared to spend a good amount of time in detention. Before I go though, can I bake a couple more of these cakes?

Tanna chose the recipe this month, a wonderful potato coffee cake adapted from One Potato, Two Potato by Roy Finamore. She suggested doubling the amount of streusel topping for a single batch of dough; I missed the part about this suggestion applying if you split the dough into four cakes instead of two. So I had two cakes (a 9-inch and a 10-inch) with a whole heap of streusel, and this was NOT a bad thing!

Those parchment paper tabs are actually two strips placed at right angles to each other, laid in the bottoms of the buttered pans before placing the dough into them; they allowed me lift the cakes out of the pans without having to turn them over and lose any of the delicious streusel.

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Morocco: A Visit to a Mountain Berber Village

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Morocco with a National Geographic Expedition was our visit to a traditional Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains. The Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco. National Geographic arranged the visit through American Peace Corps volunteers who acted as our facilitators, ambassadors, and translators.

After traveling through the mountains on a narrow highway fraught with hairpin curves, our bus arrived at the base of the village. As the Peace Corps volunteers walked us up the unpaved road and into the heart of village, there was so much to take in: red clay houses — outfitted  with electricity and satellite dishes — whose color matches the red of the surrounding hills; the village mosque; the man screening earth; the woman with the captivating smile, sweeping leaves.

Read on to see these photos and learn about how the Berber women bake bread

Fast Food in Marrakech

Street food in Marrakech, Morocco has quite a reputation. Now, I am delighted to say, I understand why. During our two days here, Jay and I sampled some of the wonderful offerings at the Jemaa el Fna, the huge square in the Medina, the walled old city.

This woman fries pieces of flattened yeasted dough on a griddle. Drizzled with honey and rolled up… a fantastic treat for two dirhams (about 25 cents).

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